We are delighted to present our debut album, English Motets (2018).
About the CD
During the renaissance, musical composition flourished, but it was a time of great change, fuelled by religious division. This programme traces music written by some of the English renaissance masters over a period of two-hundred years, encompassing florid medieval-sounding works by Dunstable and Cornysh, intricately woven polyphonic works by Tallis and Sheppard, and the beautiful simplicity of Tomkins and White.
All of these composers were obliged to write in the musical style of the moment, which was constantly fluctuating in one of the most turbulent periods in English history. Lavish Catholic services required suitably elaborate music, with Latin words and rich sonorities. The Protestants did away with such excess, and as the walls were whitewashed so too was the music, with demands placed on composers to set English words as simply as possible, so that every syllable could be clearly heard by the congregation. Then, in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, came a kind of relaxed simplicity, a halfway house, in which the ideal was both that the words could be heard clearly and also that the music should be interesting.
The enormous contribution to this period by Thomas Tallis and William Byrd is represented by the inclusion of three works from each composer, showcasing the versatility of their writing. While all composers in Tudor England were flexible to the period’s shifting religious requirements, none was quite as skillful at reinvention than Tallis, whose musical quality remains absolutely consistent, even while his style changes dramatically. Byrd gave voice to the plight of Catholics in England through many of his compositions, utilising his royal favour to escape punishment for his beliefs, and in doing so wrote some of the most enduring and powerful music of the era.
The presented order is not a linear journey, but a grouping akin to a concert programme, where a balance of fast and slow, similarity and contrast is all brought into play. The incredible productivity of composers writing during this period, coupled with the advent of printed sheet music and licenses granted for its production has resulted in a wealth of material available to us – and, as such, selecting only a handful of works to reside under the banner of ‘The English Motet’ was by no means easy. But I hope that we have managed to showcase something of the extraordinary journey composition took around the English Reformation, and in turn reflect our immense enjoyment in performing the music we all grew up singing.
Suscipe quæso Domine Thomas Tallis (c.1505 – 1585)
Vigilate William Byrd (c.1540 – 1623)
Loquebantur variis linguis Thomas Tallis
When David heard Thomas Tomkins (1572 – 1656)
If ye love me Thomas Tallis
Libera nos I John Sheppard (c.1515 – 1558)
Christe, qui lux es et dies (I) Robert White (c.1538 – 1574)
O Lord, in thy wrath Orlando Gibbons (1583 – 1625)
Veni Sancte Spiritus John Dunstable (1390 – 1453)
Haec Dies Thomas Morley (1557 – 1603)
Quemadmodum John Taverner (c.1490 – 1545)
Ave Maria Mater Dei William Cornysh (dc.1502)
Deliver me from mine enemies Robert Parsons (1535 – 1572)
Ne irascaris Domine William Byrd
i. Ne irascaris Domine
ii. Civitas sancti tui
Libera nos II John Sheppard